I bartend at a small bar on St-Denis and I am, also, a Plateau resident. During the past few weeks I’ve grown accustomed to the sound and sight of police cars/buses/trucks/bikes/horses. Having my neighboring streets be flooded with protesters has almost become an nightly expectation. Wether I am home or at work, I’ve witnessed them all. Never have I ever seen but a peaceful one. Until Sunday night.
I woke up in the middle of the night, in tears, because I cannot forget.
Doing my job behind the bar, door’s open, people on my terrace… The chansonier playing his tunes. Patrons enjoying a cold drink on a very warm night. That was my night.
Then came the flood.
This time, they weren’t peacefully walking, they were running and screaming.
STM busses filled with SQ cops arrived at the corner of Sherbrooke and St-Denis and squads literally poured out, ran out into the crowd without any regard to the safety and well-being of Montreal citizens. Cop cars arriving on the scene driving INTO pedestrians. People on bikes being brutally lead to the ground. Innocent passer-bys becoming victims of a cause they probably weren’t even there to support in the first place. Sunday the 20th was part of a long holiday weekend, many had off the following day so it allowed for a busy nightclub outing for most. Most parts of the Lower Plateau and the Main were packed with, not only protestors but clubgoers as well as others simply enjoying a walk on the beautiful streets of our town on a fantastic night. Hitting a girl in a fancy dress wearing high heels (just one example of what I’ve personally witnessed) seems to be a pretty strong indicative that the police is currently foregoing all reason and compassion when it comes to using force as way of crowd dissipation. There is no discrimination, everyone seems to have become “casseurs” in the eyes of our government and to the armed forces. In return, in the eyes of the protestors, all cops seem to have become violent instruments of a fascist law. It is absolutely impossible, at this point, to be rational about the situation. It has gone above and beyond the tuition hike stand. It became a social, political and human rights issue as soon as Law 78 was introduced and caused great general despair in Quebec. It is so inconceivable to us, children of democracy, to be treated as criminals for taking a stand that is to benefit the entire province and to an extent our country. In fact, it is so inconceivable for us to have to protect ourselves from those who are supposed to protect us that when we are pushed to the ground for peacefully making a point our rage just increases. It adds fuel to the fire.
Only a small percentage of the protestors were considered “casseurs” and they were expelled and rejected by the masses before the cops could even get to them. A small percentage that gave the rest of them a considerable disadvantage in the media and public perception of the situation on site. 78 was introduced unjustly because of the absolute exaggeration of “facts” propagated by the media. Isolated events took center stage. Now everyone walking the street on manif nights can be considered criminals just for trying to walk across the street to avoid the protest itself. Old, young, political or not, caught in a souricière.
Violence and discrimination is inciting violence and discrimination on both sides and I see no end.
As the red was engulfed by this violent tidal wave of black and blue we got caught caught in the quick sand of the situation. Customers on my terrace, who were but standing up and gazing at the scene in shock, were, at first, lead inside by us then forced indoors by the police. People were pushed, shoved, batons and pepper spray cans were in full view. Cops in full body armor, armed to the teeth, against peaceful protestors. Sure, antagonization was rampant, both parties took part of this game. You cannot even speak in front of an officer as he is in “RIGHT” to use pepper spray on you for opening your mouth. Is this was democracy is like? I’ve seen it in action and I think not. I’ve never been more scared in my life. The sound of their boots on the streets of my beloved city, the smell of smoke bombs, the tears and cries of strangers who need your help. It’s enough to make a passive supporter like me angry. Yes I am not ashamed to admit that to this point I was but a mere supporter in the shadows. Not anymore.
As I grabbed my keys ready to lock the doors behind refugees of what looked like a civil war right on St-Denis, some stood in awe looking out the windowed door… some sat and cried… most, like myself and fellow bartender Brigitte, stood and sang along with Jacques as he played “Quand Les Hommes Vivront D’Amour” for us to a background of violence that will forever be etched in my memory as the most shocking night of my life.
Tonight is the 22nd. I am working the bar. We will be ready. I will be providing red squares and tear gas solution at the bar. I will lock my doors in the face of violence and harbor those in need. I never thought I’d have to protect human beings from those who are supposed to be protecting US and that in doing so I could land a beating, I could be fined and dragged to jail without having my rights read, without an explanation, without decency and pride.
I do not wish to debate and discuss the politics of this grave situation, we all have an opinion on what has been going on. What we can all agree on is that this has gone too far. I have always been a law abiding, respectful citizen. And I will continue to do so. If that means protecting my customers from harm, so be it. Arrest me. I’ll be fucking waiting.
I hope you can sleep at night… because I can’t.